“The things that we love tell us what we are.” ― Thomas Aquinas
The first few months of setting up this blog last year were about mastering technical know-how. For the next few months, I focused on understanding social media platforms, ostensibly to spread word about my blog (admittedly, I’m still hopeless at this).
I was already somewhat active on Facebook, which is where most people find/read my blog and comments are posted.
I dutifully add news of each blog post on Google+ though I’m not sure what it’s for. (I even read a book on Google+ and I still don’t know what it’s for.)
I finally got on Twitter, and while I haven’t tweeted myself, I now see the point of it, which is progress of sorts. (You know those folks who complain about email? Grumble about texting? Roll their eyes at ebooks? I never, ever want to be one of those people.)
Then I found Pinterest. Oh, Pinterest! Dearest, darlingest Pinterest!
What is Pinterest?
Say “Facebook” and nobody blinks. Mention “Pinterest” and far too many people look quizzically at me. Hence: this post.
Pinterest is a visually-led social media platform with 70 million users.
Imagine a cork bulletin board on your wall where you pin things you like: places you’d like to visit, articles on skin remedies, amusing cartoons.
Pinterest is a digital version of this. Except it doesn’t require tearing things out of magazines (you can find every major glossy from Vogue to Vanity Fair on Pinterest now) or fiddling with scissors, or giving up cupboard space.
You can have limitless boards, allowing you to separate your interests as you see fit. Here’s what an overview of my Pinterest boards looks like:
Inside each board, every pin is neatly arranged in a reverse-chronological order, with the latest at the top.
Getting started on Pinterest
Setting up an account is straightforward. Go to www.pinterest.com and sign up for a new account. Add a photo and write a few lines about yourself.
Create a board by giving it a title. It can be anything you like – from the practical (“ideas for new kitchen”) to the conceptual (“moody blue”). Some boards can be kept secret.
There are several ways of finding and/or adding content to add to your boards:
- You can upload images from your computer.
- You can pin images or articles from other sites. Some sites have the Pin button on their pages. You can also download a Pin It bookmarklet from the Goodies page for your browser. This will allow you to pin from any website.
- Use the search function on Pinterest (“Bangladesh trees” for example, or “gluten-free chocolate cake recipe”, or “vintage children’s books”).
- You can find and follow people on Pinterest. When they pin something new, it shows up on your feed. You can follow one or all of the boards of other pinners.
While pins can be enjoyed solely for the image, you can also click through to the article or site from where it was generated.
A recipe board, for example, will show the dishes with titles. You can click through each one for the details.
You don’t know me but…
Pinterest is social media: it functions by interacting with other people on a virtual platform. Unlike Facebook, however, it’s peaceful. You never have to “speak” to anyone. This, thank heavens, discourages attention-seekers because there’s no soapbox.
It’s primarily visual, which means I can follow people from Chile, Sweden or China who have amazing taste in interiors, travel photography or wildlife, and not have to worry about language barriers. We all speak pictures.
When I stumble across someone whose taste is similar to mine but better, it’s like an older, cooler sister lighting the way ahead. I’ve learnt about obscure books, read up on veganism, and seen more brilliant street art than ever before.
I read this (on Pinterest, of course) and it’s true: Facebook makes me dislike people I know in real life, while Pinterest makes me like people I’ve never met.
• There’s no obligation to follow back people who are following you.
• Credit your sources. The best way to do this is to pin from the original source and not, say, Google Images or microblogging site Tumblr (which doesn’t seem to take credits seriously, so it feels like theft to me). If you run into a blank wall: (1) use Google Chrome, (2) download its “Search by Image” app, (3) run a search.
• Watch out for credits that are incorrectly attributed. (Read this amusing article by Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian to see how attributing a new age-y quote to Nelson Mandela lends it gravitas.)
What’s the point of Pinterest?
Most of us enjoy collecting something. For a minimalist like me, the idea of accumulating real-life objects stresses me out too much. So I satisfy my need to research, gather and sort virtually on Pinterest.
Spending my days with words and ideas as I do, it’s relaxing to switch to my right brain and a visual mode with Pinterest.
I don’t play games, so Pinterest is my equivalent of a Wii break. Unlike Candy Crush, you can actually stop after ten minutes.
Most of all, it’s a great tool for self-discovery:
• I was a student of photography and, for many years, I had a substantial collection of books by my favourite photographers. Because of frequently moving and scaling back on my stuff, I eventually gave these away. On Pinterest, I re-discovered my deep love of magnificent photojournalism by, among others, Helen Levitt, Josef Koudelka and Robert Frank.
Pinterest doesn’t replace high-quality print books, but everything I want to refer to is at my fingertips, wherever I am in the world. And – I love this especially – one image leads to many more. It is through Pinterest that I discovered/got a wider look at the work of Thurston Hopkins, Gordon Parks and Marc Riboud.
• Pinterest keeps my various interests active.
• It’s a great search tool. Before I would only use Google. Now I’m just as likely to look up things on Pinterest too, especially if it is visual. (NPR’s Fresh Air weighed in on Pinterest’s appeal as a search tool in August this year.)
• Nowhere is it more obvious that I like what I like – and to understand how I like it. Take travel for instance. Some may love the wilderness, acres of beach or old ruins. I find myself consistently drawn to ancient towns with higgledy-piggledy houses painted in bright colours and uneven winding lanes perfect for long, lazy, exploratory walks.
• I had never been interested in mixed-media collage artwork before coming across it on Pinterest. Or thought to examine self-portraits of artists through the ages. Or realised how marvellously goofy my favourite Golden Era (’30s/’40s) Hollywood stars were.
• Pinterest helps refine my taste.
• Being on Pinterest informs me what is currently occupying my thoughts, as odd as this sounds. When I’m hunting down travel tips and gazing at images of unfamiliar places, I know I’m itching to pack a bag and hit the road. When I see I’m searching for fashion inspiration, it means my wardrobe’s looking a bit blah and I want to jazz it up. When I finish reading a book, I look on Pinterest for titbits on the author, how they lived and whom they loved; it rounds out the pleasure of having been immersed in the universe of a novel.
Of all the social media platforms, Pinterest is the truest reflection of the parts that make up me. It’s also a place where I go to dream.
“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.” ― Albert Einstein
When writer and lifelong collector of books Linda Grant had to downsize her house, she wrote about the experience in I Murdered My Library. This evocative novella-length essay is sold only as a Kindle single, though here is an excerpt in the Guardian.
As we increasingly rely more on our digital world, could we develop emotional bonds with our operating systems? Writer/director/producer Spike Jonze, never one to shy away from an original and zany concept, takes a soulful approach to this story set in the near future. Watch Her and marvel.
I am always coming across intriguing articles. I save everything to read later offline on the free app, Pocket. Installing a bookmarklet enables one-click-adding from other sites such as Facebook or Twitter. The app syncs across different devices so I always have something to read on my phone wherever I am. Pocket also emails a weekly list of trending articles. All round good stuff.